Canadian tablet market to see triple digit growth in 2011

If the iPad created headlines last year in Canada, the tablet space is slated to continue to see explosive growth this year, according to new research from IDC Canada.

According to Krista Napier, senior analyst for emerging technology and digital media at the research firm, by the end of this year there will be “just shy of” 1.5 million tablet devices in Canada. That includes both those sold this year and those “still in use” from previous years. But given that the platform really just arrived in a big way last year, it’s a safe bet that the vast majority of those devices will still be in play by the end of the year.

But the real story is one of growth – both of unit shipments and of players.

Napier declined to comment on how many media tablets were in use in Canada by the end of 2010, but said the end-of-2011 figure of 1.5 million includes “triple digit” growth over 2010, powered by both the continued popularity of the iPad (and Apple’s next generation tablet, widely expected by mid-year) and the emergence of a variety of devices from a variety of vendors, including the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook and the ever-growing number of Android-powered tablets in a variety of form factors.

“Not every user is an Apple user, and there will be companies that come to market with devices tailored to different types of end users,” Napier said.

Although that land rush has begun in earnest with the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy Tab and other products, Napier said it should really heat up towards the middle of the year, when the litany of tablets previewed at this month’s CES event in Las Vegas start to hit the market.

The channels for tablets are evolving as well, but Napier stressed that the products remain a consumer play. That said, the arrival of the Samsung tablet at a carrier-subsidized price point late last year certainly showed that the carriers will be looking to get their piece of the action in the form of data plans. The emergence of other products from additional vendors without the same margin expectations as Apple, as well as the carrier subsidy model should help drive down overall selling prices for tablets, as will the emergence of various smaller form factors and screen sizes.

Much has been made of the opportunity for the tablet as a corporate device, and many VARs, whether or not they sell the hardware themselves, are finding opportunities in building solutions around or including the iPad and other tablets. But Napier expects the tablet, like the modern smart phone, to be a device that the end user purchases and is later offered access to appropriate corporate functionality.

“As businesses are using it they’re starting to understand the business case, but still, for the majority, it’s a consumer market,” she said.

That said, there are a select few companies that are being very proactive in acquiring tablets as corporate devices. Napier cites the example of software giant SAP, which has equipped its executive team across North America with the devices, as an example.

The research firm’s full report on the Canadian tablet market over the next four years is available now.